31 January 2020

City bungled emergency. Residents paid price. #nlpoli

EOCs bring key people together in one spot  with the
information needed to make crucial decisions
during an emergency.
Now we know why the City of St. John's emergency response was as disjointed and chaotic as SRBP described last Monday.

The City decided not to activate its emergency plan even though they declared a state of emergency.

Here's the way CBC described the decision in a comment buried way down in story on the disastrous disaster response:

The provincial government ran its own emergency centre, and while St. John's has its own emergency operations centre, Mayor Danny Breen said it wasn't activated because communication with various channels such as city staff and first responders was able to be done over the phone.
"If we had opened the emergency operation centre and sent everyone to one place, first of all we wouldn't be able to get them there, and the resources to get them there would have been taken away from what the problem was at hand," he said.
Breen's comments don't make sense given the City had a week's warning of the huge blizzard that swept eastern Newfoundland on January 17, 2020.

27 January 2020

The Emergency Response Disaster #nlpoli

Communities on the northeast Avalon recovered relatively quickly from the worst blizzard in the province’s recorded history. However, the recovery in the City of St. John’s was slower than that of the neighbouring municipalities.  Both the mayor and one media commentator have placed responsibility for this on the provincial government and out-of-date legislation.  However, the actual problems in the recovery in St. John’s stemmed from the City’s approach to recovery operations. Other issues that have not gained significant public notice persisted because of the province’s failure to intervene.

The General Situation

Residents of the northeast Avalon came through the largest blizzard in the province’s recorded history with relatively few fatalities and virtually no reported incidents of significant damage to property or infrastructure.  That is remarkable in itself given the storm and a smaller snowfall that followed on its dropped more than  100 centimetres on parts of the region and wind gusts hit between 1305 and 150 kilometres an hour during the peak of the blizzard. 

Of the roughly 250,000 affected by the storm, only about 10% - 27,000  - lost power during the storm and the bulk of those had their power restored within 48 hours of the last snow flake. This contrasts with 2014 when a series of events knocked out power to a significant portion of the island for several days. 

Two avalanches reported publicly damaged houses and caused people to leave their homes but without injury.  This is in contrast to a relatively minor blizzard in 1959 that caused an avalanche that The Battery in St John’s that killed nine people.

Municipalities in the region had cleared at least passable cuts on all streets within 48 to 72 hours after the storm subsided on Saturday and by Tuesday all major municipalities had begun to lift their states of emergency to one degree or another. The provincial government had also cleared the major highways to the city within two days of the storm.

13 January 2020

John Crosbie #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Left to Right:  Bill Doody,  Brian Peckford, John Crosbie, Jane Crosbie,
and Beth Crosbie at the 1983 federal PC leadership convention

The outpouring of praise in memory of John Crosbie, who died on Thursday, has been such a flood of cliché and, in some cases, fiction that it does a disservice to the memory of one of the most significant political figures from Newfoundland and Labrador in the 20th century.

Remarks by Edward Roberts,  Joe Clark, and Brian Mulroney were closer to the truth of the man than most. Roberts once noted that Crosbie wanted to be leader of anything he was ever involved with, starting with the Boy Scouts. Certainly, that is a testament to Crosbie’s ambition and determination, but in his interview last week, Roberts spoke plainly of Crosbie’s considerable intellectual talents that went with his ambition and determination.  

Likewise, Clark spoke of the respect that public servants and cabinet colleagues in Ottawa had for Crosbie both for his ability and for the professional way he dealt with them.  The politicians understood that Crosbie would be tough to deal with when he wanted to get his way, but they understood that Crosbie never failed to deploy the same fierceness in defence of the team when attacked from outside. The bureaucrats appreciated someone who understood their briefs, especially in portfolios like finance.

By contrast, Rex Murphy, so long removed from Newfoundland and Labrador physically and mentally that his writings on the province are a unique brand of safari journalism, gave the National Post his trademark overwrought prose.  He appears, as well, to have used an equally overwrought imagination to cover over the considerable gaps in his memory of what actually happened now almost a half century ago.  

The one thing Murphy got unmistakably right is to credit Jane Crosbie for her role in John’s political career.  Not to eulogise her before her time but Jane is as much the political force, and understood as such, as John ever was. People in Newfoundland and Labrador today who claim they want to get more women involved in politics – many of them people who know nothing of politics in the province and care even less about it – would do well to spend some time talking to Jane Crosbie and others like her. To say that “Jane was every bit his equal” may well sell Jane short, although the crucial part is that “the only difference [between the two] being she chose the off-stage role.”

06 January 2020

Patronage and pork #nlpoli

Think of it as classic political news in Newfoundland and Labrador.

VOCM headline: “Premier commits to fixing patronage issues in government”.

At the same time, some people in Western Labrador are  angry at the Premier for closing a small government office in Wabush.

In the VOCM news story, Premier Dwight Ball was referring to the controversy appointment he authorized at The Rooms. Many people consider that patronage because the person who got the appointment had previously been a political staffer in the Opposition office while Ball was Opposition leader.

What makes this a classic political story in Newfoundland and Labrador, though, is that no one sees the other job – the bureaucratic office in Labrador City – as patronage even though that’s what it is.

At the turn of the century, the provincial government relocated departments or bits of departments from St. John’s to other towns in Newfoundland and Labrador.  They called it “regionalization”.  The idea was to spread the “benefit” of government spending around the province instead of concentrating it in St. John’s.

We are not talking about putting a snow clearing depot for the west coast on the west coast.  We are talking about shifting the office of the fire commissioner with seven high paying jobs and putting them in Deer Lake, along with a bunch of people who run provincial parks. The aquaculture division of the fisheries department went to the coastal community of Grand Falls-Windsor, and the medical care commission offices – the folks who pay doctors for their services – went to GFW as well.

“You can do the work anywhere” was a common rationalization for the whole scheme and it certainly is true.  You *can* do these administrative jobs anywhere.  But it was more efficient in many cases to do them in St. John’s, which is, after all, the capital city and administrative centre of government. 

03 January 2020

15 years of The Sir Robert Bond Papers #nlpoli

Today marks the 15th anniversary of The Sir Robert Bond Papers.

The first post  - 03 January 2005 - described the atmosphere at its birth but, most importantly, gave the philosophy that remains its foundation:
In any thriving democracy, sound public policy can only come through informed debate and discussion. 
As long as SRBP continues,  it will provoke debate and confute myth-mongers based on research and evidence.

8200 posts.

More than six million words.

And more to come.